Hello DrillBabyDrill, thanks for your posting, I like both ideas from SteelToes & SheCanDoit22, but here is a 3rd idea that you might find interesting, and it doesn't involve drilling even though that's your name
You might want to look at a device call a "Power Line Communication" since you are considering wiring your house with Cat5; I'll assume you have a Router. This "Power Line" device uses your home's electrical wiring to send out the Ethernet signal throughout the home. You get 2 boxes; Box #1 you will plug in directly into the Router and the other end of the Box #1 you plug directly into the wall outlet and not into a surge suppression device, that would degrade the signal. Then you take Box #2 and place it where you want to have an Ethernet connection. You plug one end of Box #2 into the outlet directly, and the other end of Box #2 you plug in your computer or Ethernet device.
And there you have it, a clean home Ethernet network with having to drill holes in the walls, or run wire everywhere you want a connection. The only down side it that the boxes can be a little expensive, but you can add as many locations as you like. There might be some signal strength issues if you have an older, but you will still have a signal. Do a Google search for "Power Line", there are several companies that make these devices, and they always improving speed.
Please let me know if you have any questions, and have fun surfing the Net!
I am not a Home Depot associate, but I am (was) a network specialist. I have installed a lot of networks, using coax, cat5/6, wifi, and even a system in the late 80's using serial ports. currently, I have cat5 running through my house using a number of techniques, and I have gigabit networking throughout. My internal bandwidth is better than some businesses (and I have a lot of systems online).
The suggestions above are good, but missing a few minor details that can get very ugly if not thought of beforehand.
Running the wiring either through the atic or the floor as suggested above is a good idea, and if your house has conduit, you can zip tie the wire to the conduit runs for easy securing. But do not put the network plug in, or even next to the outlets. At higher speeds, the electrical field around power lines can disrupt network signals, dropping a 1Gbps connection down to 200-300Mbps. Keep the outlet boxes at least 6 inches apart and you will be fine. Do not run cat5 wire next to unshielded electrical wire (romex for example), as this will generate a lot of interference. Worse yet is older Knob & Tube wiring, as they have no shielding.
If you don't have easy access to the attic, you can go down through the basement/crawl space. Either drill a hole as close to the baseboard as possible, or if you want to have a wall box (really not that hard to install, use the orange post-construction low voltage wall inserts from the electrical isle), make your hole in the wall, then use a long drill bit to go down through the floor plate inside the wall (18"-24" drill bits are in the tool isle, 4' auger bits are in the electrical tool area). Both of these types of drill bits have a hole in the end to fish wire back out with. I use kite string or fishing line to pull wires with. If you don't want to open the wall, you can drill down next to the baseboard as suggested above. They have surface mount boxes for phone and networking in the isle where the phone and network jacks are (usually the same isle as the light bulbs & wall switches).
Another alternative is wifi. Unfortunately, Home Depot doesn't have much available to really help in this area. You will need to go to a computer store like Best Buy or Fry's. Usually, your Internet Service Provider gives you a box that is capable of wireless networking to start with. Try it to see how good of a signal you get throughout the house. It won't be great, but if you get a signal, upgrading the wifi may be the best solution for both bandwidth and clean installation. I have a Wireless N router (see picture below) sitting behind my flat screen in my living room, and can connect to it from outside in my back yard through several lath & plaster walls. I even let my neighbor connect from her house (she can't afford internet). Most laptops today use Wireless-G, but some have Wireless N (Wilreless N will work with older G and B networks with no problems). The key is to add beef to the backbone so you don't have to upgrade every couple of years as laptops get upgraded. To further boost the signal, replacement antenaes can also be purchased that greatly improve the base unit's signal strength. You can also buy usb adapters and pci cards for your non-portable systems (desktop computer, DVR, etc) so that they can also connect. The newer gaming systems (WIi, PS3, Xbox 360) have built-in wifi.
This is a fairly new technology, and definately one to keep an eye on. The main caveat with this type of network is what side of the electrical panel each circuit is on. As long as the base unit and the satelite units are on the same side of the panel, you should be fine. Otherwise the signal has to travel outside of the house to the pole, through the transformer, and back again which will affect performance. Other issues are performance drops during high load (washer/dryer, furnace, etc). And don't expect to get the same throughput as advertised. While I haven't personally used these, I have studied the information available. Several reviews of this technology are online. This can also be used in combination with wireless network routers or wired switches to add multiple systems in each room to the network.
These are also alternative solutions, but they can be a little harder to find. MOCA is a fairly new idea where network switches are connected to the existing coax cables running in your home. HomePNA is similar, except they use phone lines. Both will give you similar performance (and theoretically much better than Powerline networking).
My conclusion would be to do a little more homework to figure out what will work best for you and how much work you are willing to do. Once you decide on a path to take, the Home Depot can help with some of the more basic materials needed for installation (ethernet cable, drills/drill bits, etc).
I have one more option for you. I also live in a house with lath and plaster walls. Mine is on a raised foundation so I actually ran all of my data lines, speaker wire and cable lines under the house. I just drilled a hole right in between the carpet tack strip and the baseboard in the rooms that have carpet and right next to the base board in the rooms with wood flooring. I drilled the holes from inside the house and then had my nephew hold a flashlight at the hole so I could locate it from under the house. Once I had all of it ran I tacked it up to the floor joists for safe keeping. I put a little bit of caulking around the wires to seal it off from any insects and the cold air. That way it looks neat and clean from under the house and in all of the rooms. Even though most of them are behind something I still wanted it to look good.
I hope that one of the options that were mentioned will work for you. Thanks
Hello DrillBabyDrill and welcome to the community.
Are there any alternatives really depend on the floor plan that you have in your home.
One of the alternatives would be to use a surface mount track system; these are paintable channels that you can run along the baseboards.
Another option would be to try to run cables from your attic space next to the conduit lines. For example, if you live in the area where conduit is used for the electrical wiring you will find that some of the runs come down from the attic space in to the separation walls.
If this is the case you can drill or use same existing hole to drop the cat5/6 close to the switch receptacles or outlet receptacles and add another box that can be covered with double plate.
One more option would be to run a PVC conduit on the outside of your home and feed the cable thru.
I’d use this as a last option being that any holes that are made on the outside are hard to repair later on and prone to leak.
Hope that helps and good luck with your project.